Who Will Use SQL Server on Linux?

This past weekend I was having a discussion on IRC with someone about the role of SQL Server on Linux, and who might actually use the database engine over many of the more traditional, open alternatives like PostreSQL and MySQL. The argument essentially boiled down to this: my opponent said that "nobody in their right mind who wants to use SQL Server would migrate from Windows to Linux", and I said that "SQL Server on Linux isn't for people who already have systems built to use SQL Server installations on Windows, but for people who haven't even started their projects yet". Both of us are likely correct to a certain degree, and both of us are likely over-generalising by using terms like "everyone", "most", and "developers".

I've been using Microsoft's SQL Server on an Ubuntu Server installation since it was first made available this past summer, and I've got to admit that it's a solid little engine. SQL Server has long been my favourite database, and I tend to use others primarily because my servers are all Linux-based. MySQL is the go-to, but does it have to be for smaller projects?

I don't think so.

So with this in mind, I plan on proving to my weekend opponent that SQL Server on Linux is a viable solution by migrating 10Centuries from MariaDB 10.1 to SQL Server 2017. This won't be a simple drop-in replacement, as the two systems do things differently enough that it makes zero sense to hammer a square peg into a round hole. Instead, I plan on taking the examining system and designing a proper replacement that'll play to SQL Server's strengths and finally move all of the data rules from the API layer to the database, where it actually makes sense.

10Centuries is very much a relational system, and it should be perfectly reliable on SQL Server Web despite all the licensing limitations that Microsoft has in place for that edition of the engine. If there's any change at all, it will likely be that 10C is faster after the database change. There will certainly be some performance reports after the fact. If I can drop API response time down by 500ms without spending a small fortune on more hardware (or software licenses), I'll be very, very happy.

Umm … Why?

A little over ten years ago I had an MCDBA certification from Microsoft that revolved around SQL Server 2005. Those skills are now well over a decade out of date, and I'd really like to get back into using this more powerful tool. By using SQL Server on Linux, I can gain experience with the system and also begin to understand the various things that the tool can and cannot do. I'm years away from becoming an expert, this should be a good first step down that road.

SQL Server can certainly be a great tool for people who prefer to use Linux and want to build or update their software. Just because it may not fit every use case doesn't mean it can't fill others.

Five Years Since the Switch

Five years ago today I made the switch from Windows to OS X and, while I've not stuck with Apple's preferred OS on my hardware for the entire duration, the move has been incredibly illuminating. It's been said on numerous occasions on this site, but the first computer I could call my own was an ancient off-brand 8088 back in 1994. It was on that machine that I learned how to program in Turbo Pascal and Watcom though a pair of books that were instrumental to my understanding of software development. From 1994 through to 2012 the core ideas in those books were used over and over and over again across thousands of projects, evolving as the field developed new processes and techniques. Core to the understanding, though, was that software should be written for the lowest-grade of hardware whenever possible. We can't assume everyone has the latest and greatest computer on their desk, nor should we make people suffer for our own impatience at finding the most efficient means to solve a problem. While I still very much stick to this core idea as much as possible, the platform switch in 2012 brought about a slightly different area of focus when designing digital solutions, and it's one I'm still actively learning about today.

For the first eighteen years, my primary goal was to create great software that would solve the problem at hand as efficiently as possible. The interface that people would see was often an afterthought, though I always tried to make the various elements line up and look good. After using iOS for a bit and seeing just how important interface design can be, I started to take it much more seriously.

Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works.
— Steve Jobs

While watching parts of Apple's big hardware release a few weeks back, they played an audio snippet with the above quote from the late Steve Jobs. A lot of people have heard this quote, but I wonder how many people think about it.

At the day job I've been working on a project for almost two years1 where I've tried very hard to think more about how the software is supposed to work rather than how "tight" the code is or slick the interface might be. When designing new functions and features, I try to collect as much information as I can from the people who will wind up using that part of the system because, at the end of the day, they are my customer. The software is used by people across the organization with very different sets of goals so, sometimes, the best solution is to write two or more interfaces that draw from the same source of data, but display the information differently. Sure, everything would work if I were to just make a single, unified view that people could then selectively ignore. But I want the software to actually work … so I ask questions. Lots of them.

Despite working with software for almost a quarter century, I still feel there is a lot left to learn. Every platform has taught me something valuable that is just as relevant today as it was days, weeks, months, or years ago when I would heavily lean on them. DOS taught me the importance of efficiency. Windows taught me the importance of object oriented coding. PalmOS taught me the importance of resource management. Linux taught me the importance of community building. iOS/OS X taught me the importance of designing tools rather than solutions. The web taught me the importance of picking a standard2 and sticking to it. The next area I expect to work in will involve a great deal of voice interaction, and I look forward to the evolution in thinking that move will bring.


  1. it's really hard to believe this much time has passed already

  2. there's an XKCD joke in here …

Indistinguishable from Magic

Earlier today Matt Gemmell wrote an impassioned article on his website where he decried the current state of Apple's software and how it makes very expensive electronics horribly frustrating to use, and even harder to justify buying. The post has been taken down1 but, in the short time that it was available, people from across the planet wanted to weigh in with their opinions about how "Apple is doomed", offer technical support, or otherwise openly mock this person who has clearly invested a great deal of time, money, and effort into this wholly artificial realm we refer to as the Apple Ecosystem. Like Mr. Gemmell, I have also invested a great deal into Apple's hardware and software over the years. I came in just as it seemed that everything Apple touched turned to gold, and I left when my rose-coloured glasses eroded, revealing that Apple's world was just as incomplete and prone to error as any other platform a person might choose.

Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology …

One of the many things I like about modern hardware is just how sleek everything has become. Smooth lines with seamless transitions between metal and glass abound. Processors thousands of times faster than anything we might have used while growing up can now be found in a wristwatch. Batteries can go on and on. And the screen resolutions available today are really nothing short of breathtaking. Our modern consumer electronics today are light years ahead of what we could have imagined 15 years ago. Looking at the sorts of complaints people have with our current range of devices, I wonder if this isn't the actual problem that we're facing: we've benefitted so much from so little in such a short amount of time that we don't realize just how much "more" we're expecting from electronics manufacturers, and these vendors are simply unable to keep up with our laundry list of expectations.

It's Time We Slow Down

When I first entered the world of Apple software, I was pretty fortunate. The iPod Touch, though a marvel of engineering, was a relatively simple device running simple software and performing simple tasks. The first version of OS X I used was 10.6 Snow Leopard, arguably one of the most refined versions of the operating system given that there were zero new features and a slew of fixes that resulted in standing ovations at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference all those years ago. Coming from Windows, the Apple world just felt so much more cohesive because updates rolled out at a slower pace than those from Microsoft. With more time between releases, new updates and features could be more thoroughly tested and refined, meaning that the majority of the bugs reported from people would — ideally — be more of an edge case than the rule. This is clearly not the case anymore, and not a week goes by where a semi-popular web personality doesn't lament Apple's declining software quality or lack of cloud infrastructure skill.

One might suggest that people who aren't happy with Apple should move to another ecosystem that is more in line with their values, but this isn't always realistic. One cannot simply swap out Google for Apple or Oracle for Microsoft. These sorts of migrations often take a great deal of time, planning, and money. More than this, people shouldn't be expected to always vote with their wallets. Moving from one platform to another 10 is not a feat that can be completed in a weekend nor is it an effective way to send a message. At the end of the day, the best way to send a message is to openly communicate, and I say it's time people stop demanding so much pseudo-innovation from their electronics and instead ask companies to slow down and release their hardware and software products when they're ready and not a minute before.

Traditional computers such as desktops and notebooks do not need to be replaced every year, so companies should focus on building machines to last 5+ years. Cell phones do not need to be replaced every year, either, so why push out an update that appears to be little more than an incremental update over last year's model but with a substantial price tag? Tablets and watches are in the same boat. Heck, just about every electronic device we use on a regular basis could likely switch to release a new model every three years with minor revisions to accommodate problems during the intervening months. Many people will undoubtedly disagree, but today's hardware is good enough for the vast majority of what we want to do. Why must we continually push the envelope?

With a slower hardware release cycle, software developers will have more time to focus on the less-tangible aspects of our systems and strive to make improvements. Some new things could certainly be introduced during this time, but this in-between time would really be the time for the devices to be polished and refined while people also become more accustomed to using the tools they already have.

The amount of change that we've all seen in the last fifteen years has been nothing short of amazing, and this change has resulted in some phenomenal effects on societies around the world. By slowing down we won't diminish anything that's happened thus far and we stand to gain greater benefits if the functional lifespan of our difficult-to-recycle electronics is extended thanks to a slower release schedule. Will this hurt the bottom line for a number of people who are already wealthy? No doubt. But we cannot expect our tools to continue their evolution at such a breakneck speed. We're seeing the faults and cracks in our systems already, but it's not too late to do something about it.

A three year hardware release cycle with a longer software cycle would go a long way to changing our perceptions of modern electronics from being the occasionally frustrating objects they are to devices indistinguishable from magic.


  1. Though intrepid investigators may have some luck in finding a cached version of his article, titled A Declining Trajectory.

Empowerment

The Windows95 clouds have always one of my favourite desktop backgrounds. The open sky was a breath of fresh air to the repetitive mosaic patterns in Windows 3.1, and the new software coming out was far more exciting and intuitive than anything before. Whenever I would look at the clouds I would get the sense that anything was possible and, regardless of the task at hand, I was doing something really cool. The clouds gave me this impression. However, looking back at those innocent days in the mid-to-late 90s, I’m often reminded of a question that I had the first time I saw Windows 95 boot on a 75MHz Pentium-based computer: are we looking up at the clouds, or edge-on?

The Windows95 Clouds

Many years after Microsoft retired their iconic operating environment1 I learned that the picture was taken in Redmond by an employee looking straight up. In retrospect, this makes sense. To a 15 year-old boy who had not yet learned the limits of the day’s technology, this was like staring out the window of my own private jet while contemplating my next decision.

Computers today just don’t instil this same sense of empowerment.

Where Do You Want To Go Today?

Microsoft was, for a long time, the epitome of software. They could churn out a lot of really complex tools in a very short period of time. There were reliability problems, and the software would crash quite often but, more often than not, people could get a lot of work done with the systems Microsoft made possible. I know several small businesses that lived and died by their Excel spreadsheets. Poor business decision or not, this was not possible for most people prior to GUIs like Windows952. Today’s computers are built on commodity hardware with commodity software and a dime-store experience. Where’s the sense of direction?

Software has come a long way since the insecure, crashy, bug-riddled stuff we used two decades ago. There is no denying this. Nobody would want to go back to what we had in those dark days, either. We all have stories about the hours of work we lost as a result of a hardware or software failure. Yet with all of the improvements, it seems we have also lost the magic that made technology so irresistible.

Perhaps nearly a quarter-century of computer use has worn the sheen off anything interesting. There are a number of times when I go “wow” when using a new piece of technology, of course. Rarely does this feeling of wonder last longer than a few days, though. Why?

Ignorance Is Bliss

Magic is only magic when you don’t know how something works. Penn & Teller can do amazing tricks that wow millions of people each and every year. To other magicians, some of their techniques must be old hat and without any sense of wonder3. Learning about something is the surest way to dull the excitement that comes with using something that doesn’t crash, doesn’t have problems with language switching, doesn’t blue screen, doesn’t have hardware issues, and doesn’t require a constant connection to a power outlet.

This isn’t quite right, though …

I’ll need to put some further thought into the source of this lack of interest and excitement I have for something that has consumed so much of my adult life.

A Microsoft-Free Family

From the very first moment my eyes were opened to the world of possibilities computers offered us in 1994 I have used software released with the Microsoft name. First it was DOS, then Windows, then Office, and the list has grown substantially since then. Even today on my Mac I have a number of pieces of software written by Microsoft, including a Virtual Machine of WinXP that is used only while at the office. This may change very soon, though, as the wife and I move more towards a Microsoft-free family.

Over the last two years I have been introducing the wife to the idea of using Apple devices. An iPad for both her school and work, an iMac for our household tasks. We have neither of these (yet), but I hope to fully convert Reiko from using an older Toshiba notebook running Windows 7 to OS X so that we only have two operating systems in use at the apartment1. This gentle push to convert to using Apple hardware and software is partly due to the fact that I am tired of dealing with all the idiosyncrasies that goes into keeping a Windows-powered machine running in peak condition, and partly due to the fact that my own productivity has shot way up since leaving the familiar confines of Windows. There's just one little thing that's keeping the wife from going through with the conversion to iOS and OS X: Microsoft's Office suite.

clippy's revenge

She loves Office, and uses it daily for any number of tasks. Word is used to create handouts for her students, Excel is used to show numbers in a grid2, PowerPoint is used to create mockups of website designs3, and MovieMaker is used to attach photos to Celine Dion songs. The familiarity and perceived convenience of the software is what's keeping her from even considering using a Mac.

Oh, and the Office files from Windows are not readable in the Mac version … right?

Years of hearing about how silly Apple systems were compared to the home-grown computers built by Toshiba, Sony, Fujitsu, Panasonic, and others has clearly left a strong impression of the platform. That said, I do believe she will begin to see the advantages of the Cupertino-designed systems very shortly. When this happens, I'll gladly take all of her .docx and .xlsx files and put them into her folder on the Mac where she can pick up right where she left off if she so chooses. But I don't think she will.

This fall she plans on returning to university where she will work to earn a Master's degree. I look forward to seeing her reach her goals and plan on doing everything I can to help her with it. One of the ways I hope to help out is by providing some tools that will enable her to quickly take and review notes, read textbooks, create lesson plans, and all the other things a teacher and university student might need to do. This will all be done on an iPad that will make full use of services like iCloud and Dropbox whether she realises it or not. When she edits a file on the train ride home, the updated document will be waiting for her on the shared family iMac in the living room4.

There's just one little problem; Office isn't on the iPad, and won't be for at least another year. Reiko will be using other tools to accomplish the tasks she sets out to do.

A year is a long time to be without a piece of software in the technology world. A number of people have already left Office behind for other tools such as Evernote and a myriad of Dropbox-linked text editors. There is no way that these people will all jump to give Microsoft some money should their long-reigning Office suite come to the mobile platform. Sure, there will be a number of sales from people who need to use it for work, but the average person will probably not care in the least whether Office is on the iPad5. There is no longer a compelling reason to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, or even Access when there are so many other tools out there that are better from a casual technologist's perspective.

It's hard to believe but, after I leave my current employer and the wife agrees to use OS X instead of Windows, we may become a Microsoft-free household. This should terrify the people in Redmond because, until recently, I was a staunch Microsoft supporter. So if people like me can find no compelling reason to continue using their software or services, what reason would any casual6 computer user have for paying an exorbitant amount of money for something other cheaper software tools can do just as well?

Microsoft has long been an enterprise-centric company, so they will most certainly not go out of business if fewer people are buying their powerful tools for home use, but it's got to worry them to no end.

Platform Lock-In

Over the last few days I've had the opportunity to communicate with a number of people who, like me, are moving away from Google. While this sort of geek march is not very interesting to anybody1, what is interesting is the number of people I've seen considering dropping their Android-powered phones for something that is not under Mountain View's control2. The problem they'll have, though, is a remarkable lack of choice when it comes time to pick up a new smartphone. There are only two viable options for people who want to walk around with a little computer in their pocket while avoiding Google.

iphone5_WinPhone

So I guess the only question is this: which platform do we want to get locked into when we really don't have a say about which services get killed by any of them?

I look forward to seeing how many geeks actually go through with their "Say No To Google" plans over the coming months. Perhaps this is the break FirefoxOS needs to beat Blackberry for the 5th spot in mobile operating system usage.

The Netbook Killed Windows?

Paul Thurrott recently wrote about Windows 8's sales figures over the holiday season and the numbers are quite interesting. Shoppers are voting with their dollars about which products should play a role in their lives and, oddly enough, Microsoft's role is shrinking faster than ever before. Mr. Thurrott goes on to posit his theory about why Windows machines aren't flying off the shelves like they used to, claiming that the lowly netbook has completely changed buyers' expectations of what a computer should cost. I completely agree.

As someone who used a netbook heavily for years I can tell you that these little devices, while not the most powerful computers in the world, could certainly perform the most common tasks required. In my case, I forced a non-upgradable Acer AspireOne to do everything from writing simple blog posts to photo editing to writing desktop applications in Microsoft's Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate environment. That little netbook would overheat like you wouldn't believe in the summer, prompting me to put ice packs under the case while using it lest it lock up in the middle of my work and force me to take a break for half an hour while it cooled off. It wasn't pretty, but that's where the first two versions of Noteworthy were coded, as well as half of the current release. Heck, I'm willing to bet good money that I used that netbook harder than any other person in a first-world nation pushed theirs1.

So back to Mr. Thurrott's article.

He says that the 20-million Windows 7 licenses that Microsoft sold every month were mostly comprised of the low-end netbook-type hardware, which includes the big-ass 15.6" machines with crap resolutions, slow hard drives, and entry-level processors. Here's how he puts it:

See, that 20 million figure—which I believe to have been massaged from a bookkeeping standpoint—was unfairly bolstered by sales of low-cost PCs, primarily netbooks. And that’s the clue we see in the NPD statement above. It says that the average selling price of notebooks “rose only $2 to $420.” The average selling price of Windows-based PC notebooks is barely above $400. Do you know what the ASP is for Apple’s Macbook line? It’s $1419. A full $1000 more than that of a typical Windows notebook. $1000!

It’s not pat to say that the Windows PC market went for volume over quality, because it did: Many of those 20 million Windows 7 licenses each month—too many, I think—went to machines that are basically throwaway, plastic crap. Netbooks didn’t just rejuvenate the market just as Windows 7 appeared, they also destroyed it from within: Now consumers expect to pay next to nothing for a Windows PC. Most of them simply refuse to pay for more expensive Windows PCs.

And because consumers refuse to pay for the most expensive Windows PCs, people will likely not see the benefits of using Windows 8 the way it was meant to be used; with fingers.

While reading this article, visions of shoppers like my wife filled my head. In the case of Mrs. Irwin, she doesn't see the value of a more expensive or a more capable computer. She doesn't see the need for screens with higher resolutions or sharper screens, or fonts that don't look like shit. A computer is a computer is a computer. My parents are much the same way. My sisters are much the same way. And this is fine … for them. But it's not good for Microsoft. They need people to want to pay the higher prices for the better hardware with the touch screens. They need people to want to use gestures to navigate through the screens. Windows 8 was designed for fingers, not the mouse!

Yet many people will not use the software this way.

Whenever I go to an electronics store I try the newer Windows machines, looking for one that doesn't frustrate me2. I've yet to find one. A lot of the computers on display at shops like Sofmap and Bic Camera come in one of two flavours: incredibly cheap, and incredibly pricey. The incredibly cheap machines don't have touch or, if they do, it's less than optimal. The incredibly pricey units cost far more than most Apple devices and are responsive to the touch, but are far too expensive for the average person. It's true that Windows 8 is still a relatively new operating system and the hardware vendors need time to catch up and make adequate systems that take advantage of the new software, but does Microsoft have enough time for this? Does Ballmer?

The netbook was introduced to the computing world half a decade ago with a great deal of fanfare. Technology had finally come far enough that just about anybody could have a small, potent little computer in their purse or office bag without destroying their spine, and these things were practically given away. Signing up for a wireless data plan or an ISP would give you the option of receiving one of these machines for as little as 1円. One Yen! Who in their right mind would pay 100,000円 for a decent machine that would last five to seven years when you can just toss away the 1円 machine and get a new one every year or two?

Like Thurrott states, the netbook didn't just rejuvenate the ailing PC market; it destroyed it. The average selling price of PCs plummeted to such an extent that sales of quality machines were no longer sustainable. People wanted cheaper devices that could be disposed of like cell phones after a contract, and that's just what they got.

People like my wife and sisters will never pay more for a touch-based computer just because it's running Windows. Not in a million years. This is going to be a tough nut for Microsoft to crack, and I highly doubt the current executive team will be the ones to do it.

Better With a Mouse

Today I had the opportunity to play with Windows 8 at the local Sofmap for a full 30 minutes. Displays were set up in two locations for people to get a little hands-on time with Microsoft's newest operating system, one with tablets and the other with desktops. There are quite a few differences between Windows 8 and the previous versions as well as a lot of familiarity. That said, after half an hour with the heavily-marketed product I came away with a single conclusion: it's better with a mouse.

The tablets are, to be completely honest, a complete waste of money. I tested products from Fujitsu, Sony, Acer, and Toshiba. They all had the exact same specifications and the exact same shortfalls. The touches were not always registered1. The interactions were not always consistent2. Accessing the "charms" required two or more attempts. Typing required some patience3.

The desktops, however, did not have any of the downsides of Windows 8 RT … Windows RT 8 … Windows RT … fuck it: the slates. They were as quick and responsive as you would expect from a full-powered quad-core Core i5 with 8GB RAM and SSD. Applications loaded quickly. The mouse made all of the interactions with the new interface decent enough to get used to within a few minutes4. Would I be able to use this myself? Most certainly I could. Would I recommend this for my wife or my parents? Absolutely not. There are just too many "hidden" things that people will never find, and too many areas that are actually more confusing than previous versions of Windows.

One thing that I did like a lot about this whole experience is that it reminded me a great deal of Windows 98 in the era of IE4. The fourth version of Microsoft's web browser was poised to completely change the way we interacted with computers and with the Internet itself. It actually did, too … as most of our computers became horribly unstable after installing IE4 on the Windows 98 previews and even Windows 95. The Active Desktop concept required just way more power than most computers had available at the time, but a lot of it seems to be in play today with Windows 8. This alone would make me consider test-driving the operating system for a while on a nicely specked-out desktop computer.

But not a laptop, and never a slate.

There's just one little thing that I can't quite forgive Microsoft for: language support.

Once again, if you buy Windows 8, you have to choose which language you want. Japanese. English. Swahili. Canadian English. It's a freaking joke. Windows is the ONLY operating system in the world where people not only have to think about what version they want to install on their computer5, but what language or languages we need to use. There are language packs available for download, yes, but many of these simply tack on support, rather than fully integrating it.

Alas … it won't be my problem. A memo from IT has made it very clear that Windows 8 has been banned from the organization. It's not permitted on the corporate network. Period. This is the first time I've heard of such a thing considering how Linux and OS X are not used within the organization but are perfectly acceptable on personal devices.

Moving On

I understand that this is the first release of the new operating system, and there are a lot of new things to get accustomed to. I also understand that I am not the target demographic for this new operating system. That said, as someone who has been a steadfast user of Windows for over 15 years, I think I can safely say that I am glad I left the Windows world behind. I don't understand what the big picture for Microsoft's applications should be, anymore. I don't see any consistency in Microsoft's own products to emulate or work into my own Windows programming projects. I don't even see the value of the Windows RT tablets … which are supposed to somehow change the way organizations do things6.

I am not the target market, anymore. I'm moving on.

Metronome

Microsoft has been making a lot of waves this year with their push towards cloud services, Windows 8, mobile devices, and fun in the living room. The introduction of their new design is, if memory serves, the single-most cohesive attack they've made across all of their product lines ever. Metro is not for everyone, but it's certainly unique. It's also being forced down a bunch of people's throats in the near future as people are kicked off Hotmail and directed towards Outlook.com, Microsoft's new mail portal.

As Reiko is still a heavy Hotmail user, I decided to dust off the old Windows Live account and take a look to see what's new in Outlook. The tech press has been saying that it's relatively decent, and Microsoft is billing it as a new way to look at email. As someone who is thinking about new ways to use email, I would love looking at what a bunch of people much smarter than myself might produce. So let's take a look.

Here's the current version of Hotmail in all it's glory:

It's certainly been a while since I last logged in, but the design hasn't changed in the least. Light blues, concise formats, and boxes … lots of boxes. This sort of design works on almost every screen at almost any size.

How about Outlook.com?

Oh my. The boxes have moved, and it looks a little bit like a Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series Interface … without the side-split text telling us that there's more to the immediate left or right. This is certainly a little different from GMail, but a "whole new way to look at email"? I don't see it. Regardless … let's poke around. Where can I find the calendar? I think the Metro interface would be perfect for showing a calendar, as everything is square.

Ah, there it is … in a #000000 black pop-over. That's some monster contrast, but it's certainly easy to find the calendar.

Ah … that's not Metro. Heck, that's not even in my preferred language. Both Hotmail and Outlook showed me stuff in English. Why is the calendar showing me stuff in 日本語? Very strange. Perhaps this is the next area that the Microsoft web development team will tackle.

The wife's initial reaction to the Metro interface was a solid "Yuck" followed by a "Now where will I check my email?". While my initial impressions of Metro were positive when I had the chance to play with a Windows Phone 7 Series Phone last summer, I don't think I would feel comfortable looking at this style of interface all day every day. It's just to … antiseptic.

That said, I'll take Microsoft's personality-free design over the faux leather and faux wood stuff that Apple is putting out.

I Really Dislike Internet Explorer

There are many things I enjoy about creating websites. There are also many things I dislike. One of the things I dislike is Internet Explorer … every single version. Why? Because regardless of how much time I spend making the layout show things just so, non-Latin characters look like crap.

Here is a partial screen capture from a site that I'm designing for a client here in Japan. The site is a place for young learners of English to come and practice their skills. This is what it looks like in IE8:

I have only one word to describe the Japanese text on this site: pixelated! I hate it. Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji all look either pixelated or fuzzy as heck.

Here is the same shot taken from Chrome:

While the Japanese characters are not quite perfect, they're a heck of a lot better here than in IE. The font is the same. Everything is the same … but the difference is striking.

And here's a closeup of just the left navigation bar. IE8 is on the left, Chrome on the right:

Alright … so the two elements aren't quite the same. Still, the characters in Chrome are far superior to IE. Checking with other browsers, Opera and Safari both render the fonts nice and smooth. Firefox comes close, but it's not quite as nice. Nothing is as bad as Microsoft's flagship browser, though.

How do the other versions of Internet Explorer compare? IE6 doesn't show the right font and falls back to MS Mincho. IE7 looks just like IE8. IE9 is a little bit smoother, but not much. IE10 is the smoothest, but still not as good as Safari, Opera, and Chrome. This is clearly why so many Japanese sites use images at every opportunity rather than text.